2017 began with inspiration and a lot of studio time. I have been painting a lot this year! There are at least 20 new paintings in my studio that haven’t seen the world... READ MORE
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It took me 6 years to do it though I was terrified! But I’m a big fan of French impressionists (and they invented “plein air”) so I had to di it! Here is a little glimpse:
Before Claude Monet artists were painting in their studios, but I guess that guy saw the summer outside – all sunny and warm – and while he had work to do, he decided to fudge the smelly studio, get out there and do his work in the garden. Here is his garden:
so you know why
Slowly it developed into a trend, fashion and just a way to make art. A lot of artists like to emphasise that they paint “plein air”.
It involves quite a bit oh headache though – to find a beautiful spot, drag all the materials out there, set up… what if it rains… where I can wash my hands… . but even if you take care of all the technicalities, there is whole bunch of painting challenges too- composition (you gotta squeeze all the beauty into small canvas! I mean, how am I suppose to do it?!!), colours that are changing if light changes (say if there is a cloud). So, it was overwhelming. But!
When I saw my friend Kim’s garden on a sunny afternoon, I knew I have to be there with my easel! Oh, what a wonderful place! I will take a proper camera next time and show you, just believe me for now. So I thought I will just relax, look at all the beauty and if I end up with a painting – great, if not – it will be my outdoor time. I think it’s the best way to do a “plein air”!
And so I did it! No instructor, no friend-artists, just me and the garden… had a wonderful time and surprisingly enough the painting came out quite nice. Here, see for yourself:
Peonies are about to blossom and that means I WILL BE BACK!
It was 5th drawing I have ever produced! I’m serious.
I love myself for keeping such a detailed record of my art journey, I have to say. Back when I just started I used to take pictures of all my paintings and drawings (excluding sketches) and number them chronologically. That’s how I know that the FIFTH drawing I produced was the FIRST artwork I have sold. Isn’t it cool?! Now that I think about it
It was at school, of course. I saw this black horse and couldn’t get it out of my head. I didn’t have the skills to draw a horse (I thought), but I just had to do it. So I showed the photo to my teacher: “Do you think I can do it?” He said: “Why not?” So I started. Surprisingly, 3 hours later I had this baby:
This is pastel on paper. People still disagree whether pastel is a painting or a drawing, it doesn’t matter to me, I love it whatever it is.
So, closer to the sale, please! Another student saw it and apparently loved it. She didn’t say anything to me, because she thought I will never sell it – she thought it was too beautiful to sell. So everybody went home that night…
On the way out the lady who liked my work told another student: “If it was for sale, I would buy it now”.
– “Why don’t you ask her?”
– “Oh, I don’t think she is going to sell it. I wouldn’t”
– “Well, you should still ask! I will ask for you!”
Next class she asked me. I said, “yes, of course, I will sell it”. I didn’t think for a second! Working in sales for 5 years trains your reflexes, I guess I didn’t think about keeping it, whether I will be able to do another one like this, researching price – nothing! negotiation was 5 minutes and I sold it for about $50. It’s about 12*12′. Now I’d think “dirt cheap”, but for someone who started painting 3 weeks back, it was an event, a landmark… and such a good story?
First things first – I LOVE ANIMALS. I was painting and drawing them ever since I started my art journey. New turn on that road – pet portraits. I thought, I’ll try, see if I like it. I did. I liked it. And so as Claire (the owner of Mungo – the first fluff ball I drew). Double joy! Second one – I liked even more. By third one – absolutely love it!
It’s not just drawing. It’s experience like no other. Imagine you have met someone, liked them, got excited and wanted to tell someone else about them. But you can’t. Saaay…., you are not allowed to use words. That’s quite a task, isn’t it? Well, that’s how I feel when I’m drawing pets. Pets are special, they live with humans so in some ways they become alike – they have character, habits, moods… and after a few portraits I have drawn, I noticed that you can guess it. Well, I’m not a pro just yet, but I think I can somewhat describe them. And I do, except not with words, that’s all
Ok, since I swore to myself that I will keep the posts short, I will now illustrate the process I go through with each portrait. First, I request a lot of photos, different ones. And I stare at them. For a while. I carry them in my purse and look at them on the subway sometimes. Thinking about the animal, their character, habits. It doesn’t matter if I’m accurate in my guesses, it’s just my way of connecting with them.
Next I do a colour study – mostly for the eyes, eyes are important. And I try different pastels and select ones that work.
And then it’s a full blown fun – colours, shapes, values… everything I know about drawing and painting. I just WORK.
After I laid down the most important things, I leave it for a day or two lying on the floor in my room. I do my stuff, but I constantly glance at the work trying to spot things – what to add, correct, emphasize.
After I had long enough break, I go back with “fresh eyes” and finish it. Sometimes I leave work a few times to let my eyes and my mind rest before I actually finish it. Only a week later – Voila!
Sometimes artists are quite DESPERATE for inspiration. That’s a fact. And what can come as a surprise that things that used to inspire you, well, don’t. The longer you live uninspired the more you fear that it’s going to become a “creative dry spell”. You need to get out of that state of the soul. Right now.
I believe that ALL PEOPLE SHOULD BE INSPIRED, not only artists. What gets you out of bed every day? What makes you cook a fancy delicious dinner instead of spaghetti with canned sauce? What makes you decorate your house? Inspiration! motivation! enthusiasm! Yeah, I need some of that right now!
So here is my always changing list of things that inspire:
1. Reading what inspires other people. When someone writes about inspiration, they do it IN THAT STATE. You feel it. You sense it. Exactly that feeling gets me inspired as well.
2. Art of TOTALLY DIFFERENT kind other then what I do. I don’t think about how they did it, what they used, how can I learn this technique. it’s just pure WOW, I LOVE IT. Period. No planning, researching, thinking – just emotion that gets you going.
3. Touching paper in an art store. Ok, that’s a little weird, but it works. For me. I also touch a lot of other things in art stores, in fact, almost everything. hm, I hope it’s ok.
4. Meeting two of my super cool friends – Kate and Lesley. Other friends “work” too, but these two gals… Well, they took me out of a year long “creative dry spell” once and they didn’t know that they did it, we were just having lunch or something.
I can continue this forever – this is not my point here. Why don’t we think what inspires us and bring more of it into our lives? It’s not a rhetorical question, I mean, let’s think about it right now. How great would it be if our lives were FILLED WITH ENTHUSIASM all the time?! We wouldn’t need to make ourselves do stuff. Instead we would always be ON FIRE creating, achieving, LIVING!
This inspired me today:
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires” – William Arthur Ward.
You can only imagine how great he was that now, more then 5 years later, I’m still inspired to create art.
It was not magic, he didn’t do anything extraordinary to blow my mind. He was just there. To guide. To help. To allow us to open up and blossom in whatever medium, whatever subject, at whatever speed we were ready to. I realized it years later when teacher after teacher, school after school I was being taught, preached and converted into their “churches” of methods, schools, approaches and mediums how precious and needed is it in the art education today to hear/see/feel the creative call of the student and LET THEM BECOME what they are aspiring to become instead of MAKING something “worthy” out of them.
I spent a few months of once-a-week classes with this brilliant artist – Nikolay Balyshev – and then moved to Canada (which I love, BTW). A little while later I started missing the inspiration and support in my art process. I realized how much of it was coming from him. Only then I actually bothered to GOOGLE HIM for the FIRST TIME. Oh, boy, did I discover credentials. He turned out to be one of the most recognized artists in my city, member of numerous art groups, his work sold internationally.
How was it possible for someone who had never touched a brush before to end up in the classroom of the highest standard master? – you might ask. Well, it’s a specifics of Russian art market and topic for another day.
It’s a little scary actually, now when I think about it. Have there been another teacher in that classroom, maybe I would never have discovered my passion. I don’t want to be too dramatic here, but till this day I’m looking for a teacher like this, talented, inspiring, respectful and sadly I haven’t been so fortunate to find one. How do I manage without guidance? Wait for the next post and you will know
Here is some of my favorite pieces by Nikolay:
You can see more on his website http://www.nikbalyshev.ru/
2007. Siberia. Russia. A colleague of mine shared her excitement about evening art classes she had been attending.
– why don’t you come with me? – she said.
– me?! well… it sounds like fun, but.. no-no. I can’t draw a straight line.
– you don’t have to! the first class is free anyway and we have oil paint on sale now.
I really wanted to go (deep inside, deep, deep inside), but I wouldn’t have done it (as usual fear of failure would have kept me home) if not for my niece, who was visiting from out-of-town and REALLY wanted to go. Seriously, she was jumping up and down until I agreed to this idea. The girl was 18. Just very excited.
I had oil paint, oil, one brush and canvas board, which my teacher broke in half so that both her and I will get a painting surface. (skipping some boring details about introduction, setting up and choosing the subject)
Excited. Terrified. Blushing like on a big exam I started painting. Why so nervous? I think only a specialist can figure out why I was so scared of failure even in small daily events. But there I was. I don’t remember what got me though this evening, but now I’m convinced it was divine grace.
Here is what I came out of that first free painting class with:
Oh, boy, was I excited. The teacher saw it, smiled and said: “In about 10 sessions when you start to understand what is going on, you are really going to enjoy this!” He is a brilliant man – my first art teacher – next post will be about him.
Interestingly enough, my niece didn’t continue painting. Sometimes I think she was like a flashlight blinking in the dark to show me the way
Thank you for your time.